Public Release: 

NAI Fellows paper on patents and commercialization for tenure, career advancement in PNAS

The paper, in the current Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, grew out of an NAI panel entitled 'Would Thomas Edison Receive Tenure?'

University of South Florida (USF Innovation)


IMAGE: This shows (from left) M. Gharib, Caltech; E. Kaler, U. of Minn.; R. Marchase, U. of Ala -- Birmingham; P. Harker, U. Del; and T. Sands, Purdue University. view more

Credit: Aimee Blodgett, USF News

TAMPA, Fla. (April 29, 2014) - When six university leaders took the stage at the 2013 Annual Conference of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI), held just over a year ago at the University of South Florida, they began a national conversation on changing the academic culture to recognize faculty patents and commercialization activity toward tenure and promotion. That conversation, according to NAI president Paul R. Sanberg, was long overdue.

The question posed to the panel, "Would Thomas Edison Receive Tenure," was answered with a clear "yes" and the paper that resulted, "Changing the academic culture: Valuing patents and commercialization toward tenure and career advancement," is published in the current Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Over the past several decades, university missions have expanded from teaching and research to include economic development and translating university-based research into real products that benefit society," says Sanberg, the paper's lead author and senior vice president for research and innovation at the University of South Florida. "It is time these accomplishments were recognized for the value they bring to the university and to the world, and our faculty inventors are rewarded for them."

The paper is the first policy paper published by the National Academy of Inventors. All of the authors are fellows or charter members of the NAI.

The authors say that, while research activities that translate to product commercialization should not replace traditional scholarly pursuits such as teaching, mentoring students and publishing research, patent and commercialization activities should be considered equally in decisions related to faculty tenure and academic advancement.

"The greatness of a university should not be measured by its research grants and contracts alone," write the authors. "Greatness is also measured by how the university impacts and changes for the better the world and society-at-large."

Future efforts to encourage a culture change that recognizes the value of faculty patents, licensing and commercialization activities can be enhanced by developing advocates for commercialization. The work of the National Academy of Inventors, a non-profit organization founded to recognize, encourage, and enhance the visibility of academic technology and invention, provides an example of such advocacy.

"The NAI and its university members and Fellows throughout the United States play an important role by encouraging innovation and bringing attention to the devalued role patents currently play in tenure and career advancement," says Sanberg.

The authors suggest that universities would do well to encourage and support bright young faculty and trainees to build careers that combine research and scholarship--the traditional academic paths to tenure and academic advancement--with translating that research to the market through patents, licenses, and the commercialization of their ideas and products to benefit society.


About the authors (in alphabetical order):

Nasser Arshadi, Ph.D., is vice provost for Research and professor of Finance at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He received his Ph.D. in financial economics from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He has published extensively in economics and finance journals on capital markets and the microeconomics of corporations with an emphasis on assessing and managing risk, and has published two books on financial intermediation and insider trading. He serves on the editorial boards of Technology and Innovation and Public and Municipal Finance, and served as an economist and policy analyst at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. He is a member of the NAI.

Morteza Gharib, Ph.D., is vice provost for Research and Hans W. Liepmann Professor of Aeronautics and Bioinspired Engineering at the California Institute of Technology, specializing in hydro and aerodynamics, biological flows, bio-inspired medical devices, and advanced flow visualization techniques. He co-founded Bioengineering Option at Caltech. He holds more than 50 U.S. patents in areas of biomedical devices and imaging technology. He is a fellow of the NAI, AAAS, and five other professional societies. He has received five new technology recognition awards from NASA in the fields of advanced laser imaging and nanotechnology. He was recipient of the R&D 100 Award for the design of a 3D imaging system in 2008.

Patrick T. Harker, Ph.D., is president of the University of Delaware and a research leader in service operations management and economics; financial services operations and technology; operations research methodology; and transportation systems. He holds a U.S. patent and U.S. copyright for methods optimizing transportation schedules. He has published or edited nine books and 100+ articles, and is an ISI highly cited researcher in mathematics. He serves on the advisory boards of INFORMS Service Science and Operations Research, where he was previously editor-in-chief. Harker is a Fellow of the NAI, INFORMS and a member of IEEE, the American Economic Association and the International Academy of Management.

Eric W. Kaler, Ph.D., became president of the University of Minnesota in 2011 after serving as provost of Stony Brook University. From 1989 to 2007 he held faculty positions at the University of Delaware and was Dean of the College of Engineering from 2000-07. After receiving a B.S. in chemical engineering from Caltech he earned his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in 1982 and held faculty positions at the University of Washington from 1982-89. He is an expert in the field of complex fluids and has received numerous professional honors, including election to the National Academy of Engineering and is a Fellow of the NAI, AAAS, and American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Richard B. Marchase, Ph.D., is vice president for Research and Economic Development at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He served as interim president in 2012 and 2013. His research and patents center on controlling cellular calcium entry pathways in physiology and pathologies such as ischemia. He has been instrumental in creating a culture of entrepreneurism at UAB and in integrating the regional business community into the university's innovation and commercialization processes. He also chairs the board of Innovation Depot, Birmingham's award-winning technology incubator. He served as president of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology and has been honored for his contributions by several research organizations including as a Fellow of the NAI.

Paul R. Sanberg, Ph.D., D.Sc., is senior vice president for research & innovation and Distinguished University Professor at the University of South Florida, and president of the National Academy of Inventors. He trained at York University, the University of British Columbia, the Australian National University and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, among others. He has held academic positions at Ohio University, the University of Cincinnati, and Brown University. He is an inventor on over 100 health-related patents. His work has been instrumental in translating new pharmaceutical and cellular therapeutics to clinical trials and commercialization for Tourette syndrome, stroke, ALS, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and Parkinson's disease and he has significant biotech and pharmaceutical industry experience in these areas. He has been a co-founder and on the boards of a number of startup companies, is a highly cited author with more than 600 publications and has received numerous scientific awards. He is a Fellow of the AAAS, NAI, Royal Societies (Medicine, Chemistry and Public Health) and serves on the evaluation committee of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation for the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Timothy D. Sands, Ph.D., has been named the 16th president of Virginia Tech, effective June 1, 2014. He has held the position of provost and Basil S. Turner professor of Engineering at Purdue University since April 2010. He has served as acting president of Purdue, director of the Birck Nanotechnology Center, a member of the faculty at UC Berkeley and a researcher at Bellcore. His research in nanomaterials and devices has advanced the fields of solid-state lighting, thermoelectric energy conversion and semiconductor processing. He holds 16 U.S. patents, some of which have contributed to manufacturing processes for GaN LEDs. He has published more than 250 refereed papers. He is a Fellow of the NAI, IEEE and the Materials Research Society.

Sudeep Sarkar, Ph.D., is associate vice president for research and innovation and professor of computer science and engineering at the University of South Florida in Tampa. He received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering, on a University Presidential Fellowship, from The Ohio State University. He is a Fellow of the International Association for Pattern Recognition, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and AAAS, an IEEE-CS Distinguished Visitor Program Speaker, and recipient of the National Science Foundation CAREER award. He is an Editor-in-Chief for Pattern Recognition Letters and a charter member of the NAI.

Article citation:

Changing the academic culture - Valuing patents and commercialization towards tenure and career advancement. Sanberg, P. R., Gharib, M., Harker, P. T., Kaler, E. W., Marchase, R. B., Sands, T. D., Arshadi, N., Sarkar, S. Published online before print April 28, 2014, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1404094111. PNAS April 28, 2014.

The National Academy of Inventors is a 501(c)(3) non-profit member organization comprised of U.S. and international universities, and governmental and non-profit research institutions, with over 3,000 individual inventor members and Fellows spanning more than 200 institutions, and growing rapidly. It was founded in 2010 to recognize and encourage inventors with patents issued from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, enhance the visibility of academic technology and innovation, encourage the disclosure of intellectual property, educate and mentor innovative students, and translate the inventions of its members to benefit society. The NAI offices are located in the University of South Florida Research Park. The NAI edits the multidisciplinary journal, Technology and Innovation - Proceedings of the National Academy of Inventors, published by Cognizant Communication Corporation (NY).

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